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Broncos training camp: Nathaniel Hackett leads high-energy practices


ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—The team’s last playoff appearance here came in Super Bowl 50. Russell Wilson and a revamped football business arrived to fix that. They can? They will; ONEAfter stops at the Bills, Packers, Bears, Colts, Bengals, Steelers, Browns, Vikings and Chiefs, Here’s some of what I saw just outside of Denver on another clear, warm summer day in Colorado.

1) The first thing that was noticed here, very clearly, is the level of energy and competition in practice. Through coach Nathaniel Hackett’s first camp, the Broncos have almost eschewed 7-on-7 and 1-on-1 all together to work 11-on-11 — it felt like about three-quarters of Thursday’s practice was a full rising offense. against a full defense. I’m told it could vary a little over the next few days, with maybe some 1-on-1s mixed in, but that’s pretty much how it went in camp. And the idea here, hatched by Hackett (and somewhat reflective of what he’s been a part of in Green Bay for the past three years) is to make the most of the 13 full-speed practices they’ll do in camp, effectively prioritizing the quality of of repetitions that players exceed the quantity.

Hackett is taking ideas he learned during his time with the Packers and applying them to the franchise he is running now.

2) Sophomore cornerback Patrick Surtain II looks like an All-Pro and I don’t think that’s even a minor decoration. When you see him in person, his size and length stand out, as well as how soft and easy he is. The new staff have also been really impressed with his demeanor – and how he never panics or wavers in his belief in himself. That came true on a few occasions in which Surtain won a drive early this summer, only to recover and make a play on the ball (having really good recovery speed doesn’t hurt, either). New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero worked with Jalen Ramsey the past two years in Los Angeles, and while they’re different players, it’s not out of the question to think Surtain could step up to that class this year and become, as he is Ramsey, the type of player you can build a defense around.

3) Bradley Chubb is finally healthy and I would expect Denver to move him in front of him in passing situations to cause problems for opposing offenses. This, of course, is a very big year for Chubb as he is set to play in the fifth year of his rookie contract.

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4) Albert Okwuegbunam has really improved as a blocker, and surprised the staff with how quickly he picked up, and took over, the new offense. The Broncos really like the tight end Okwuegbunam is in as well, with Eric Tomlinson, Eric Saubert and hybrid fullback Andrew Beck as well. A challenge for Hackett and offensive coordinator Justin Otten will be how to develop the guys there in the offense.

5) Two other guys who look like they’re stuck in Hackett’s offense are tailback Javonte Williams and guard Dalton Risner. The staff sees the former as an interesting mix of smooth and violent, and has shown his smarts in these coaches both on and off the field. As for the latter, the transition to the new Shanahan-style system was one that was going to require buy-in and adaptability, and the rugged Risner ran into both coaches.

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